The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

With every novel John Scalzi further cements his status as the best SF writer of his generation. The latest novel, The Collapsing Empire, is the first book in a brand new series. The Empire in this case is a set of human worlds connected by a natural phenomenon known as the Flow. You can enter it and exit it at fixed points. Within the Flow you can move at faster than light speeds, connecting worlds that would otherwise be too distant to have contact with one another. The Empire is made up of ruling clans, or guild houses, which govern these worlds. The worlds, by design, are dependent on one another; none are capable of self-sufficiency. This means that losing access to the Flow is to die a slow death, and it appears that the Flow is shifting.

The best part about any Scalzi novel is the characters and he introduces some great new ones here. Cardenia, the woman who was not supposed to be emperox save for the untimely death of her brother which has left her as the only heir to succeed her dying father. Kiva, the sharp-tongued, foul-mouthed daughter of another guild who is clever enough to see that plots are unfolding and there is both need and opportunity to take advantage of them. Marce Claremont, the son of a scholar who has been studying the flow for decades and is an expert in his own right, who must take back information to the new emperox that the Flow is shifting and the Empire is in jeopardy.  

Scalzi’s dialogue is filled with wit, and a healthy amount of sarcasm. The characters in The Collapsing Empire have strong motivations whether for good or for ill. There are reasons for the things they do. They may be harmful or destructive, but they are never thoughtless. All the main characters are on a journey in this first book. They may be fulfilling a destiny they are reluctant to fulfil, but ultimately are going to do the right thing. The question is, can anything be done to prevent the destruction of the Empire?

The Collapsing Empire is set up for a sequel perhaps more so than Scalzi’s previous books. While a very entertaining book, there is clearly more story to be told. This is a wonderful new universe to dive into filled with interesting ideas, fascinating characters, and intriguing and ruthless politics--another Scalzi trademark. It moves at a fast pace and will leave you wanting more. The hardest thing about reading a Scalzi book is the wait for the next one. Highly recommended read!

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: Our universe is ruled by physics. Faster than light travel is impossible—until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field available at certain points in space-time, which can take us to other planets around other stars.
Riding The Flow, humanity spreads to innumerable other worlds. Earth is forgotten. A new empire arises, the Interdependency, based on the doctrine that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war—and, for the empire’s rulers, a system of control.

The Flow is eternal—but it’s not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well. In rare cases, entire worlds have been cut off from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that the entire Flow is moving, possibly separating all human worlds from one another forever, three individuals—a scientist, a starship captain, and the emperox of the Interdependency—must race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

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